Northern elders reject National Dialogue, advocate parliamentary democracy
Northern leaders under the aegis of the Northern Elders Forum (NEF) have condemned the idea of national conference proposed by President Goodluck Jonathan, saying it would not address the problems of the country as it is a strategy designed for the actualisation of the Jonathan's 2015 ambition.
The spokesman of the forum, Prof Ango Abdullahi, told selected journalists yesterday in Bauchi, that several conferences held in Nigeria in the past years proved to be useless.
“If conference, conversation, dialogue is necessary in addition to so many that we had from 1914 to date, then, what conversation are you going to hold that is different from the numerous ones that we had?” Abdullahi said.
Instead, he said, for the nation to correct its mistakes and lapses, it should revive the parliamentary system of government as practised in the defunct First Republic.
Abdullahi, the former vice-chancellor of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), insisted that the problem of the nation dates back to 1976 when the military decreed a presidential system of government. He called this system more expensive and corrupt, recalling the recent instance of an illegal purchase of N255 million bulletproof cars for the Minister of Aviation, Stella Oduah, without being sanctioned by the authority.
According to Abdullahi, such corrupt practices are rare in the parliamentary system of government, which, moreover, is usually four times cheaper than a presidential one. He wen on saying that a parliamentary system of government is more accountable to the electorate as a minister or commissioner must first be elected as a member of the parliament and, as such, the people at the grass roots could challenge his performance, he said.
“So, I will argue strongly that the first constitution amendment that Nigeria should be talking about is the Nigerians to decide whether to go back to the parliamentary system of government and abandon the presidential system of government because the presidential system is corruption-prone and expensive.”
It will be recalled that the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) has also rejected the national dialogue, saying they would prefer to see an all-embracing constitution amendment. The party’s position was made known two weeks after its national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, described the national dialogue proposal as a Greek gift.
APC's national vice-chairman in the North-East zone, Alhaji Umar Duhu, also reiterated his party’s position. He stated that Nigeria at present needs only good governance and not a confab as proposed by the current government.
Meanwhile, governor Muazu Aliyu of Niger State expressed an opinion that the North is ready for the confab. But Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State, who, like Aliyu, is a a dissident G-7 and the splinter PDP faction, on Wednesday during a visit to neighbouring Jigawa State called the exercise a waste of time.
Confab committee on consultation tours
Despite the opposition to the national dialogue from some groups, the Presidential Advisory Committee has already begun consultations about the organisation of the dialogue with Nigerians across the six geopolitical zones.
According to the Committee, Ngerians in each zone would have the opportunity to interact with it on two occasions. The Committee has drawn up its schedule to allow for town hall meetings in two states in each of the six geopolitical zones.
The interface which began in Akure, Ondo State, on Friday, October 18, is expected to end on November 11 with a parley with the residents of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The Okunroumu-led committee has so far visited other states and institutions like Niger, Plateau states and the leadership of the National Assembly.
Wamakko appoints 32-member committee for National Confab
Meanwhile, Sokoto State governor Aliyu Wamakko yesterday named a 32-member committee to represent the state at the proposed national dialogue. It is be led by a former minister of youth development, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir.
A statement by the Governor's senior special assistant on media, Sani Umar, in Sokoto urged the committee to consult with various stakeholders and people of the state to evaluate their opinions. It said that the committee should also submit a memorandum on behalf of people of the state to the federal government.
Other members of the committee are Nuhu Adamu, commissioner for justice; Malam Dahiru Maishanu, commissioner of solid minerals; Alhaji Mohammad Ahmed and Dr Mohammad Arzika, a former minister of communications; Sen. Bello Jibril Gada, former minister of culture, tourism and national orientation; Prof. Riskuwa Shehu, vice chancellor of the Usmanu Danfodio University, Sokoto.
The rest are Alhaji Usman Balkore, Mr Abdullahi Waziri, Prof. Gajam Ardo, Alhaji Ahmed Gusau, a former deputy governor of the state, Prof. Malami Buba; Prof. Sambo Wali, Alhaji Abubakar Namadina, chairman of ALGON in Sokoto State, Alhaji Tambari Tafida; Sen. Salihu Bakwai, Alhaji Tukur Alkali and Alhaji Rilwalu Bello, among others.
The clerk of the state House of Assembly, Alhaji Mohammadu Mainasara, is to serve as the secretary while Malami Ladan is to serve as co-secretary.
National dialogue recommendations should not be sent to NASS – Ozekhome
Lagos lawyer and human rights activist Chief Mike Ozekhome (SAN), who recently kidnapped by gunmen in Edo State and was held captive for about 21 days, has asked the FG to declare amnesty for kidnappers.
“Amnesty should be declared for kidnappers. When I was in their custody, I asked them if they would be willing to drop their arms if they were granted and they said if FG would assure them that they would not be arrested or killed, they were ready to drop their weapons. Peace will return to the country if they negotiate with them. Negotiating with them is not a sign of weakness on the part of the government. What we have in the country today is the peace of the graveyard,” he stated.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday, Ozekhome said that what Nigeria needs is not a national dialogue but a complete sovereign national conference. He added that the recommendations of the national dialogue should not be sent to the National Assembly to whittle down.
“The 1999 Constitution was imposed on us; we have never had referendum in this country. The national dialogue should have been a sovereign national conference. The recommendations of the dialogue should not be sent to the National Assembly to whittle down.”
He also said the country needs to practise federalism the way it should be practised.
“Each Nigerian holds more allegiance to his tribe than the country itself. We never really sat down to say that we want to be together like the Americans did. The federating units of the country need powers to address their peculiar needs. The Nigerian federation is lopsided. The name of the country was imposed on us, it is not indigenous.